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Dance of Death: The Pope

Even The Most Powerful Man on Eath Must Dance

The Pope

The woodcuts now begin to depict various allegorical types of people, ranging from royalty to beggars. The first woodcut shows a Pope, the highest official in the Catholic church and one of the most powerful temporal leaders in the world at the time, beeing accosted by Death even as he revels in his own power and glory.

In this woodcut by Holbein, the Pope is crowning an emperor who is kneeling before him - symbolizing his high estate even above the most powerful monarchs - but even as he does so, Death is creeping up to the Pope. Death embraces the pontiff with one hand and with the other leans on a crutch. Two grotesque devils hover over the Pope. The woodcut is both an implied criticism of the temporal corruption of the Holy Church and its highest office, and a reminder that no matter how high one rises in society, he is not immune from Death, which eventually comes for us all.

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Hans Holbein

Hans Holbein

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